The Québec Ombudsman's 2020-2021 Annual Report – News release 3

During a health crisis, public services must display
twice as much humanity and empathy

QUÉBEC CITY, Sept. 30, 2021 /CNW Telbec/ – In her 2020-2021 Annual Report, Québec Ombudsperson Marie Rinfret pinpoints major flaws in the quality of the public services provided by Government of Québec departments and agencies. This year’s investigations also revealed wrongdoing within certain public bodies.

“The pandemic that continues to affect us has clearly shown that pudefinitely neeblic services must always be inspired to act with humanity and empathy. Unfortunately, some government and agency services have delivered mediocre performances,” said the Ombudsperson.

Examples of failings by departments and agencies

  • A crime victim qualified for psychological assistance from the Direction générale de l’indemnisation des victimes d’actes criminels (DGIVAC). An assessment of her condition confirmed that the psychotherapy sessions had to be done by phone. DGIVAC refused, claiming that phone psychotherapy sessions were not covered by the compensation plan and might breach confidentiality. The Québec Ombudsman had the decision changed.
  • The Curateur public sometimes lacked the rigour that is part and parcel of its protective mission. For example, it took 15 years before it replaced a tutor who had made suspicious transactions using a represented person’s money.
  • This year, the Québec Ombudsman noted a substantial spike in the number of complaints concerning documents lost by the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration, including those sent by mail. Such failings are unacceptable given the importance of the issues involved for immigration candidates.
  • The Québec Ombudsman received complaints from the residents of a housing cooperative about being harassed and bullied by the administrator and manager. When the Québec Ombudsman insisted, the Société d’habitation du Québec finally agreed to investigate. The Québec Ombudsman will keep a close eye on the recommendations made to the agency.

A few figures

Among the main grounds for substantiated complaints in 2020-2021, four causes for dissatisfaction about government department and agency services recur the most often:

  • Lengthy wait times (48.5%);
  • Failure to uphold rights (16.4%);
  • Failings with a financial impact (14.3%);
  • Poor information quality (10.2%).

A major gain for victims of violence

In an opinion published in 2017, the Québec Ombudsman recommended eliminating any prescription period for civil actions in cases of sexual assault, violence suffered during childhood, or violence by a spouse or an ex-spouse. A law was passed in 2020 in response to this recommendation.

Public integrity disclosures

In 2020-2021, the Québec Ombudsman received 190 disclosures and 42 requests for assistance under the Act to facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoings relating to public bodies.

“When the Québec Ombudsman intervenes to correct a wrongdoing, it sends a clear message to public services and the population about maintaining the highest public integrity standards. We must never lower the guard in being vigilant,” cautioned Marie Rinfret.

Examples of integrity breaches

  • In a health institution: a person in charge of a family medicine group (GMF) converted CLSC emergency patient visits into GMF visits. The purpose of the scheme was to obtain Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux funding. The Québec Ombudsman approached the CISSS in question to put an end to such practices.
  • In a public body: managers had authorized paid overtime for unworked hours so that staff could be recruited or retained.

The Québec Ombudsman, which acts impartially and independently, ensures that the rights of citizens are upheld in their dealings with public services. The Ombudsman’s services are free and user-friendly.

See the highlights of the Québec Ombudsman’s 2020-2021 Annual Report on the Ombudsman’s website.

SOURCE Protecteur du citoyen

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